Currently browsing posts authored by David Dudley Field '25

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James Hitchcock ’15 in New York Times

James Hitchcock ’15, former president of Uncomfortable Learning, was mentioned in Ross Douthat’s column in the New York Times.

So the same trends that have made California so uniformly liberal have also encouraged Trumpism elsewhere — and not only elsewhere, since as Jason Willick and James Hitchcock pointed out in 2016 in The American Interest, Trumpism-the-ideology is very much a made-in-California affair. Not many members of the right-wing intelligentsia backed Trump, but the writers and thinkers who did — from mainstream conservatives to the alt-right fringe — were heavily Californian: the Claremont Institute’s West Coast Straussians, Michael “Flight 93 Election” Anton, Mickey Kaus, Victor Davis Hanson, Ron Unz, Steve Sailer, Scott Adams, Curtis “Mencius Moldbug” Yarvin … and of course the one and only Peter Thiel.

In perhaps not unrelated news, Hitchcock is now working as a research assistant for Douthat and David Brooks.

Career advice for Hitchcock? Right a book about the Alt-Right, with a focus on immigration. As an Eph of the right, he is well-positioned to gain access to the movement. And, as part of the establishment, he could get a major publisher to take his project seriously.

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Needham ’04 Becomes Rubio’s Chief of Staff

From the New York Times:

As chief executive of the influential conservative think tank Heritage Action for America, Michael Needham waged years of unforgiving political warfare against the Republican Party establishment, deepening the divide between party leaders and grass-roots activists that helped elevate Donald J. Trump to the presidency.

Now Mr. Needham is leaving his job there to become chief of staff for one of the Republican establishment’s favorite sons, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.

Both are also quite young. Mr. Needham is 36 and Mr. Rubio is 46. And both believe that the Republican Party has not done enough to rethink its animating ideas and appeal to voters at a time when Mr. Trump remains woefully unpopular with younger Americans.

“Any fair-minded observer of the last several years would say conservatives have work to do in order to assure our principles remain relevant,” Mr. Needham said in an interview. “There was truth in candidate Trump’s declaration that this is the Republican Party, not the Conservative Party. Our challenge as conservatives is to build a movement that inspires a majority coalition of Americans.”

But beyond their shared views on the party’s need to have a better 20-year plan, the two have taken very distinct approaches to leadership. Mr. Needham has been a leading practitioner of the uncompromising, scorched-earth style of political combat that was a trademark of Tea Party-inspired politicians and activists. He frequently clashed with the Republican leadership in Congress and challenged it to drive a harder bargain on issues like defunding the Affordable Care Act, which led to a two-week government shutdown in 2013 that most Republicans came to see as ill advised.

Mr. Needham and Mr. Rubio have often had very different things to say about Mr. Trump. Given his anti-establishment sensibilities, Mr. Needham has largely lauded the president’s agenda of low taxes and a hard-line posture toward China. He has praised Mr. Trump for helping the Republican Party forge a stronger bond with Americans who feel socially and economically disconnected and who are eager to shine a light on the corruption and cronyism they believe is rampant in Washington.

Needham has also been an eloquent defender of the Trump position — or at least the Trump campaign rhetoric — on immigration. If only Nixon could go to China, perhaps only Rubio can lead the Republican Party to the promised land of serious immigration restrictions . . .

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Make Class/Professor Evaluations Available

Why doesn’t Williams have something like the Harvard Q Guide?

The Q evaluations provide important student feedback about courses and faculty. Many questions are multiple choice, though there’s room for comments as well. The more specific a student can be about an observation or opinion, the more helpful their response. Q data help students select courses and supplement Harvard’s Courses of Instruction, shopping period visits to classes and academic advising.

Faculty take these evaluations seriously – more than half logged on to view their students’ feedback last spring within a day of the results being posted. The Q strengthens teaching and learning, ultimately improving the courses offered at Harvard.

All true. The Q Guide works wonderfully, both providing students with more information as they select their courses and encouraging (some) teachers to take their undergraduate pedagogy more seriously. Consider STAT 104, the (rough) Harvard equivalent of STAT 201 at Williams. The Q Guide provides three main sources of information: students ratings of the class, student ratings of the professor and student comments:

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1) Williams has Factrak, a service which includes some student evaluations.
FT

See below the break for more images. Factrak is widely used and popular. Representative quote:

Factrack is super popular here — sigh is dead wrong. Any student serious about their classes spends some time on that site during registration periods. I’ve also found the advice on the website to be instructive. Of course, it takes some time to sort out who is giving levelheaded feedback and who is just bitter about getting a bad grade, but once you do there is frequently a bounty of information regarding a particular Prof’s teaching style.

2) Williams students fill out student course survey (SCS) forms, along with the associated blue sheets for comments. None of this information is made available to students.

3) Nothing prevents Williams, like Harvard, from distributing this information, either just internally (as Harvard does) or to the world art large. Reasonable modifications are possible. For example, Harvard allows faculty to decline to make the student comments public. (Such an option allows faculty to hide anything truly hurtful/unfair.) First year professors might be exempt. And so on. Why doesn’t Williams do this?

a) Williams is often highly insular. We don’t make improvement X because we have never done X, not because any committee weighed the costs/benefits of X.

b) Williams cares less about the student experience than you might think.

c) Williams does not think that students lack for information about courses/professors. A system like Harvard’s is necessary for a large university. It adds little/nothing to Williams.

d) Williams faculty are happy to judge students. They dislike being judged by students, much less having those judgments made public.

Assume you were a student interested in making this information available to the Williams community. Where would you start?

On a lighter note, EphBlog favorite Professor Nate Kornell notes:Screen Shot 2018-05-07 at 2.35.50 PM

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Latest News on Marcus ’88 Nomination

Here are the latest news articles on the (stalled?) nomination of Ken Marcus ’88 to be the assistant secretary for civil rights in the Department of Education.

Kenneth Marcus, nominated for the head of the Office for Civil Rights within the U.S. Department of Education, evaded questions about racially disparate school discipline in January. The Office for Civil Rights receives complaints about racially disparate student discipline. National data shows that that students of color are often disciplined far more often and more severely than their white peers.

Marcus said, “Senator, I believe disparities of that size are grounds for concern, but my experience says that one needs to approach each complaint and compliance review with an open mind and a sense of fairness to find what out what the answers are. I have seen what appeared to be inexcusable disparities that were the result of paperwork errors. They just got the numbers wrong.”

Marcus founded the Brandeis Center in 2011. In 2012, it filed an amicus brief opposing race conscious admissions in the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin case.

Should we be following this story more closely? If confirmed, Marcus would be the most senior Eph in the Trump Administration.

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Financial Aid and Socioeconomic Diversity

Financial aid at Williams, as at all elite schools, is three parts true generosity, two parts virtue-signaling, one part sharp-dealing, and a soupçon of farcical ignorance to flavor the stew. Previous posts include the 2016 five part series on a Provost Will Dudley ’89 presentation, a four part analysis of an excellent 2014 Record article, this 10 (!) part analysis of New York Times coverage of the broader issue of socioeconomic diversity, this 2009 discussion of financial aid data submitted to the US Senate, our five part analysis of Lindsay Taylor’s ’05 thesis on low income admissions, this 5 part series about Pell Grants, this 2017 series about the Equality of Opportunity project and lots more slap-dash mockery about financial aid policy/politics.

TL;DR: You should no more trust the advice/information from Williams when it comes to financial aid than you should accept, without checking, the attestations of your local used-car dealer. Neither Williams officials, nor your car dealer, are bad people and all are under various legal obligations concerning fraud, but caveat emptor is the only reasonable attitude.

1) Start with advice for parents: If you think your kid will get accepted by an elite school, then a) Save zero money in her name, b) Do as much of your savings as possible in retirement accounts, c) Pay off your mortgage and, only after you have done all the above, d) Save money for college. Even if you are poor (or, at least, not rich) , Williams will take every dime that is in your child’s name. Plan accordingly.

2) “Financial need” is not a natural constant like the speed of light. Williams may think that you need $25,000 in aid. Middlebury might put the number at $10,000. Harvard might offer $40,000. All will claim to have met your “demonstrated need.” None are lying, per se. That they disagree about your “financial need” demonstrates that there is no such thing as an objective measure, used by all schools (despite what the colluders at the 568 Group would like you to believe).

3) Williams, like almost all elite schools, is not meaningfully more socio-economically diverse today than it was 10, 20 or even 50 years ago. More students get financial aid, but those same students — with the same family incomes — would not have required financial aid two decades ago because tuition was so much lower than. Consider how dominated we are by the wealthy:

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About 20% of the students at Williams have come from families in the top 1% of the income distribution for, approximately, forever. And that is OK! Lots of rich families have smart kids and the scions of wealth need to attend college somewhere. I just wish that Williams would stop preening about how much socio-economic diversity has changed when, in fact, it hasn’t.

But maybe things are different at the bottom?

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Maybe, if you squint, you can see change here. The percentage of students from families in the bottom 60% — many (most?) of them not “poor” by any reasonable definition — has increased from, say, 12% for the class of 2005 (the x-axis is birth years) to 20% for the class of 2013. But:

1) There was no change for the 5+ years before 2013. We were at 20% for the class of 2009.

2) There has been no change in the decade since. Recall Adam Falk’s report in 2016 that “almost 20%” of Williams students were “low income.” Naive readers will claim that Adam Falk can’t possibly define “low income” as students who come from the bottom 60% of the income distribution, but that is exactly what Williams does. Summary: 20% of the class of 2009 and 20% of the class of 2020 come from families in the bottom 60% of the income distribution. There has been no change for more than a decade, at least.

3) Some of this change was accomplished by down-weighting other aspects of socio-economic diversity. Morty loved bragging about how the class of 2012 was 21% was first-gen, meaning neither parent went to a four year college. But Williams cares less about that now and more about raw income, so first-gen has dropped to more like 16%. Given that more Williams students have parents who went to college — including fancy colleges like Harvard and Yale — now than it did a decade ago, is it really fair to say that Williams is more “socio-economically” diverse?

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Update from the Committee on Priorities and Resources

From a faculty source:

The Committee on Priorities and Resources (CPR) would like to thank all of you who came to the open forum earlier this month and shared your thoughts about the college’s priorities, values, and commitments.

Some of your comments underscored the importance of issues that the committee has been considering carefully. These include how the college should meet its sustainability goals of reducing emissions to 35 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and achieving carbon neutrality by the end of 2020. Considerable attention has also been given not just to on-going construction projects, but also to how the college should decide what, when, and how to build. A report on the college’s building process can be found here. Possible changes to our admission and financial aid policies have also been discussed. Other thoughts, particularly those about staff salary and compensation, pointed to issues that should and will be put on the committee’s agenda.

To provide more regular opportunities for faculty, staff, and students to communicate ideas and concerns to the committee, CPR is creating a webpage and will be holding more open forums next year. In the meantime, we encourage you to contact the committee using this form.

We look forward to hearing from you,

Pei-Wen Chen, Biology
Todd Hoffman, Budget Director
Steve Klass, VP for Campus Life
Dukes Love, Provost
Megan Morey, VP for College Relations
Fred Puddester, VP for Finance and Administration
Michael Rubel ’19
Matt Sheehy, Associate VP for Finance
Jim Shepard, English
Allegra Simon ’18
Eiko Maruko Siniawer, History, Chair of CPR
Tara Watson, Economics and Public Health
Chris Winters, Associate Provost
Weitao Zhu ’18

Chair Eiko Siniawer wasn’t able to share details about the “[p]ossible changes to our admission and financial aid policies” but she did note that CPR would be publishing a report in May. Thanks Eiko!

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April Ruiz

The Yale Daily News reported in January:

April Ruiz ’05 — dean of Grace Hopper College, dean of first-year scholars at Yale and lecturer in the cognitive science and psychology departments — will leave Yale over spring break, she announced in an email to the Hopper community on Thursday morning. Ruiz said she has accepted a position at another institution but cannot disclose any details until it formally announces her appointment after spring break.

“One can never control when these sorts of opportunities present themselves, and the decision to accept [the offer] is not one I made lightly,” Ruiz told the News. “Just as I’ve always encouraged my students to pursue paths that will push them forward, I know they will support me as I do so.”

Ruiz, who served as Hopper dean for four years, helped the college community navigate a tumultuous renaming process, during which students, staff, faculty and alumni debated whether or not Hopper College — formerly known as Calhoun College — should retain its connection to American statesman and outspoken slavery advocate John C. Calhoun, class of 1804.

From a comment on the article:

Good riddance. Calhoun ’16 here, and she was a deeply mediocre dean. Never answered her emails, failed utterly to neutrally arbitrate the naming discussion, and generally seemed far more interested in playing with her dog than doing her job.

Hopefully Master Adams and Dr. Chun will have the guts to not shoe in (let’s be honest here) another diversity hire. And before the chorus of irate pink-haired banshees pipes up, this is not coming from some bigot who wants to see white guys everywhere. I loved Dean Woodard with all my heart, and was deeply sad to see such a fundamentally good, hardworking person be replaced with an uncaring, tone-deaf political hack. God speed Dean Ruiz, and may we never cross paths again.

Is that fair? Probably not. (You ought to see some of the (unfair!) things people write about EphBlog!) Ruiz seems savvy to me, at least judging by this story in the Record:

“I think Dean Ruiz is a good fit for the College because she’s incredibly passionate about the First Gen work,” Brian Benitez ’18, a member of the search committee that hired Ruiz, said. “She understands that First Gen work at Williams is unique. It’s largely student-led, and Dean Ruiz had expressed that she is excited to work alongside students rather than as their superior. Given her experience, approachability and motivation, I have no doubt that she will be an asset to the Williams community.”

Every good Williams Dean needs to be able to snow the students into thinking that she really believes that Williams is “unique” and that College Deans are not “their superior.” Ruiz did that really well with the search committee! Or she actually believes that! Which is just as good . . .

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BSO as Economic Farce

EphBlog loves Economics Professor Steve Sheppard something fierce, but corporatist nonsense like this requires rebuttal.

More than $260 million statewide, including $103 million in Berkshire County.

That’s the overall economic impact of the Boston Symphony’s summer season at Tanglewood and its three-season schedule in Boston, including the Boston Pops.

The big numbers come from an independent study by Williams College professor of economics Stephen Sheppard that depicts the BSO as “a key economic force” in western and eastern Massachusetts.

This is not just nonsense, it is Nonsense on Stata.

1) Sheppard’s study is in no meaningful way “independent.” Doesn’t Eagle reporter Clarence Fanto have a clue? The BSO gives money to Sheppard/Williams and, in return, gets a report. The BSO is the customer and it gets what it pays for. Moreover, Sheppard has been producing reports like this for the BSO for more than a decade. Do you really think if his last report (pdf) had come up with the wrong answer that BSO would have hired him again? Ha!

2) This is not to say that Sheppard is a “hired gun” who will say whatever his paymasters demand. No! Sheppard is an excellent (and honest!) economist, one who really believes that the BSO magically generates phenomenal wealth. And that is why BSO hires him and not some other, more skeptical, economist.

3) I am happy to spend several days going through the details of why this analysis is nonsense, if readers are interested. Short version: This is a “promotional study,” just like the ones used to justify public subsidies for sports stadiums. See this report from Brookings about why stadiums are a boondoggle.

4) Never forget to look, not just at what is seen, but at what is unseen. The policy issue is: Should the state of Massachusetts (or the town of Lennox or a rich philanthropist) give $10 million more to BSO or, instead, give $10 million to some other non-profit, like the basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield? We need to compare the jobs (or whatever) generated by spending on the BSO with the jobs (or whatever) generated by devoting the same quantity of resources to something else. The Eagle, either out of economic ignorance or local cheer-leading, fails to even ask the appropriate question.

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Random Tidbits on the Presidential Search

I failed to gather nearly enough Presidential Search gossip and speculation prior to Maud Mandel’s selection last month. Apologies!

1) Andreas Halvorsen ’86 will be the next chair of the board of trustees, succeeding Mike Eisenson ’77. This is not public yet, of course, but there is no way that Williams would not include Eisenson’s successor on the search committee — given that it would choose the next president, who would then work closely with the next chair — and Halvorsen is, by far, the most likely candidate among those on the committee. Indeed, the Eisenson/Halvorsen pairing on this search committee is just like the Avis/Eisenson pairing on the committee that chose Falk. (Greg Avis ’80 was chair of the board at that time.)

2) Tiku Majumder is a good guy and fine professor, but that is not the reason he was chosen as the interim president. (There are, obviously, dozens of good guys/gals among the senior professors at Williams.) Majumder was chosen by Eisenson because they had gotten to know each other so well on the search committee that selected Falk almost a decade ago. Want to know who has the inside track on being the interim president when Mandel leaves? Look for someone that Halvorsen got to know well while working on this committee.

3) The College used fancy search firm Spencer Stuart, with lead consultant Mary Gorman. Why didn’t Eisenson select Isaacson, Miller, the firm used just a decade earlier to find Falk? I don’t know. Was Eisenson unimpressed with the Isaacson, Miller process which foisted Falk on Williams? Did he have prior experience with Spencer Stuart? Did someone else make the decision?

4) I would most like to know some of the details of the process, which Morty was much more open about the last time. How many candidates? How many interviews? And so on. I am especially interested in who the other finalists were, but that may be tough to discover.

5) How long was Maud Mandel been on the presidential job market and how much had Spencer Stuart been shopping her around? Note that the previous Dean of the College at Brown, Katherine Bergeron, went from that role to president at our NESCAC rival Connecticut College.

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Zero African-American Phi Beta Kappa Graduates in 2017

In the Williams College class of 2017, there were 71 Phi Beta Kappa (PBK) graduates. None of them were African-American. (Full list of students available in the course catalog, and reprinted below the break for your convenience.) Comments:

1) There were 38 African-American first years in 2013-2014 (pdf). Some of those students transferred or took time off. Some African-American students from earlier years ended up in this class. We don’t know the total number of African-American graduates in the class of 2017, but it was probably around 35.

2) Since Phi Beta Kappa is the top 12.5% of the class, we would expect about 4 African-American PBK graduates. Of course, there will be random variation. Perhaps this year is low but, in other years, African-Americans are over-represented? Alas, that does not appear to be the case; there were zero African-American PBK graduates in 2009 and 2010 as well.

3) A relevant news hook is the “scandal” over UPenn law professor Amy Wax claiming that African-American law students “rarely” graduate in the top half of their class. The difference between EphBlog and Amy Wax, obviously, is that we have the data. (Williams declined to confirm or deny our analysis.)

4) Should we spend a few days discussing the reasons for this anomaly? If the Record were a real paper, it would investigate this statistic and interview senior faculty and administrators about it.

Williams 2017 Phi Beta Kappa graduates:
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Zach Wood ’18 Speaks at TED

1) Read the transcript if you want the gist. Worth going through in detail? I have some quibbles . . . not the least of which is that he does not mention Williams by name!

2) Note that this is the main TED stage, not one of the many (lower prestige) spin-off events like TEDx. Which other Ephs have spoken at TED? Congrats to Zach! How many undergraduates, from any school, have spoken at TED?

3) The perfect start to Zach’s pundit career would be for him, sometime before graduation in June, to re-invite Derbyshire to campus. I have been told that Williams would, this time, allow the talk to go forward.

4) Hat-tip to Williams (read: Jim Reische) for tweeting this out. It is important that Williams be non-partisan when it comes to student/alumni/faculty activities. We should tweet out links to all Eph TED talks, regardless of whether or not we agree with the speaker.

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Choose Williams Over Harvard

In celebration of previews, reasons why you should choose Williams.

There are several hundred high school seniors¹ who have been admitted to both Williams and Harvard (and Yale and Princeton and Stanford and . . .). Fewer than 10% of them will choose Williams over these more famous schools. Some of them are making the right choice. They will be better off at Harvard, for various reasons. But at least half of them are making the wrong choice. They (you?) would be better off at Williams. Why?

1) Your professors would know your name. The average Harvard undergraduate is known by name to only a few faculty members. Many students graduate unknown to any faculty. The typical professor at Harvard is primarily concerned with making important contributions to her field. The typical professor at Williams is primarily concerned with educating the undergraduates in her classes. Consider this post by Harvard professor Greg Mankiw, who teaches EC 10a/10b, the equivalent of Williams ECON 110/120, to over 750 students each year.

Being an ec 10 section leader is one of the best teaching jobs at Harvard. You can revisit the principles of economics, mentor some of the world’s best undergraduates, and hone your speaking skills. In your section, you might even have the next Andrei Shleifer or Ben Bernanke (two well-known ec 10 alums). And believe it or not, we even pay you for this!

If you are a graduate student at Harvard or another Boston-area university and have a strong background in economics, I hope you will consider becoming a section leader in ec 10 next year. Applications are encouraged from PhD students, law students, and master’s students in business and public policy.

Take a year of Economics at Harvard, and not a single professor will know your name. Instead, you will be taught and graded by (poorly paid) graduate students, many with no more than a BA, often not even in economics! But, don’t worry, you will be doing a good deed by providing these students with a chance to “hone” their “speaking skills.”

2) You will get feedback on your work from faculty at Williams, not from inexperienced graduate students. More than 90% of the written comments (as well as the grades) on undergraduate papers at Harvard are produced by people other than tenured (or tenure track) faculty. The same is true in science labs and math classes. EC 10 is a particularly egregious example, but the vast majority of classes taken by undergraduates are similar in structure. Harvard professors are too busy to read and comment on undergraduate prose.

3) You would have the chance to do many things at Williams. At Harvard it is extremely difficult to do more than one thing in a serious fashion. If you play a sport or write for The Crimson or sing in an a capella group at Harvard, you won’t be able to do too much of anything else. At Williams, it is common — even expected — that students will have a variety of non-academic interests that they pursue passionately. At Harvard, the goal is a well-rounded class, with each student being top notch in something. At Williams, the ideal is a class full of well-rounded people.

4) You would have a single room for three years at Williams. The housing situation at Harvard is horrible, at least if you care about privacy. Most sophomores and the majority of juniors do not have a single room for the entire year. Only at Harvard will you learn the joys of a “walk-through single” — a room which is theoretically a single but which another student must walk through to get to her room.

5) You would have the opportunity to be a Junior Advisor at Williams and to serve on the JA Selection Committee and to serve on the Honor Committee. No undergraduate student serves in these roles at Harvard because Harvard does not allow undergraduates to run their own affairs. Harvard does not trust its students. Williams does.

6) The President of Williams, Tiku Majumder, cares about your education specifically, not just about the education of Williams undergraduates in general. The President of Harvard, Drew Faust, has bigger fish to fry. Don’t believe me? Just e-mail both of them. Tell them about your situation and concerns. See who responds and see what they say.

Of course, there are costs to turning down Harvard. Your friends and family won’t be nearly as impressed. Your Aunt Tillie will always think that you actually go to “Williams and Mary.” You’ll be far away from a city for four years. But, all in all, a majority of the students who choose Harvard over Williams would have been better off if they had chosen otherwise.

Choose wisely.

¹The first post in this series was 14 years ago, inspired by a newspaper story about 18 year-old Julia Sendor, who was admitted to both Harvard and Williams. Julia ended up choosing Williams (at least partly “because of the snowy mountains and maple syrup”), becoming a member of the class of 2008, winning a Udall Foundation Scholarship in Environmental Studies. Best part of that post is the congratulations from her proud JA.

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Your Alumni Fund Donations at Work

EphBlog Maxim #9: The best way to predict the behavior of Williams is to imagine that the College is run by a cabal of corrupt insiders who seek to use our endowment to better their own lives. Of course, this is not true! Tiku Majumder is a good guy! Steve Klass is competent and charming. But they sure find a lot of strange places to spend money . . .

Williams College has announced a $400,000 gift to the town to help build the new police station on Simonds Road. With college Assistant to the President for Community and Government Affairs James Kolesar in the audience, Town Manager Jason Hoch told the Select Board on Monday that the school’s gift will make it easier to achieve his goal of renovating and expanding the former Turner House on Simonds Road (Route 7) without adding to the town’s property tax rate.

Williamstown is a richer than average town in a richer than average state. Why should alumni fund donations go to pay for its new police station? If the good people of Williamstown want/need a new police station, then they should pay for it themselves. Then again, that might require that Tiku Majumder or Steve Klass or Jim Kolesar face an increase in their property taxes and we wouldn’t want that, would we?

The new police station is, of course, just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to the College spending money on local amenities. Recall:

  • Williams already spends $500,000 on local charity each year. Is this $400,000 in addition to that?
  • The $1 million we gave to North Adams Regional Hospital. By the way, NARH has since closed, so that $1 million was (completely?) wasted. Was anyone at the College challenged about that? No! No effort to give away alumni money is ever a failure at Williams.
  • The $250,000 we gave to the local high school back in 2003. This was just a part of the hundreds of thousands (millions?) of dollars we have spent to subsidize public education in Williamstown.
  • The $2 million to MASS MoCA in 20007, right before the finacial crisis forced us to cut financial aid to international students.
  • The $200,000 for “rebranding” for the local ambulance service.

And on and on. I don’t know what the future will bring exactly, but you should bet that the College will spend millions of dollars over the next few years on items that, in every other town in the lovely Berkshires, the local residents provide for themselves.

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Williams a Target in Early Admissions Probe, 3

This Wall Street Journal article, “Williams, Wesleyan, Middlebury Among Targets of Federal Early-Admissions Probe,” and associated news reports (here, here and here) merit a few days of discussion. Day 3 and last day.

Some college counselors said they are pleased to see the early-decision practice investigated because it puts too much pressure on young adults and the penalties for being caught breaking an early-decision agreement are too stiff.

“I don’t think it is developmentally appropriate to ask a 17-year-old to front-load a decision like this, and when colleges are taking a half or more of their class early, it demands that some kids do this,” said Brennan Barnard, director of college counseling at the Derryfield School in Manchester, N.H.

Brennan Barnard is an idiot.

1) Students, especially students who don’t know their first choice school, can easily apply to one of the hundreds of colleges that use early action. You don’t have to apply early decision if you don’t want to.

2) Students love early action/decision! Barnard should ask some of the seniors at Derryfield if they would rather live in a world in which no one finds out their status until April. No way! Students, overwhelmingly, like the early process. (And even the ones who don’t (and/or don’t participate) don’t begrudge their friends the option of applying early.)

3) Yes, the college admissions process is stressful, but the more spread out it is, the more that stress is dissipated over time. Early decision helps with this dispersal, as do athletic admissions (often occurring the summer after junior year at places like Williams and even earlier for the Ivy League) and early writes in February.

4) Williams ought to take advantage of the desire of many students to relieve the stress by doing, sotto voce, even more, and more earlier, admissions. Instead of using the summer science and social science programs for accepted students, we should offer those 50 (?) slots to the most talented (and most desirable) applicants in the country. Find the smartest African-American/Hispanic/Low-Income juniors in high school, bring them to the College for 6 weeks in the summer, show them how magical Williams is, and then tell them — or at least the 90% who don’t mess up somehow — that, if they apply early decision, they will be accepted. This is probably the single (reasonably priced) thing that Williams could do to increase the quality of its poor/URM students.

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Williams a Target in Early Admissions Probe, 2

This Wall Street Journal article, “Williams, Wesleyan, Middlebury Among Targets of Federal Early-Admissions Probe,” and associated news reports (here, here and here) merit a few days of discussion. Day 2.

The investigation has perplexed some in elite-college admissions circles, who say that sharing the information serves only to ensure that schools aren’t being misled about an applicant’s intentions, given their commitments elsewhere.

The admissions dean of a New England liberal-arts college that received the Justice Department letter said that the school swaps with about 20 other institutions the application-identification number, name and home state of students admitted early decision.

That dean said it is rare to find someone who violated the binding early-decision agreement by applying to more than one institution early.

Occasionally, the person said, they come across a student who was admitted early-decision at one school and still applied elsewhere during the regular application cycle. In those cases, the second school would withdraw the application because the candidate already committed elsewhere.

The dean said the schools don’t share information about regular-decision candidates, so an offer from one school wouldn’t affect outcomes elsewhere.

1) Any chance the unnamed dean is either Dick Nesbitt ’74 or Liz Creighton ’01? Note that reporter Melissa Korn and Williams Communications Chief Jim Reische served as co-chairs at a conference for media relations professionals. If Jim did arrange this, then kudos to him! The more that Eph administrators appear in the prestige press, the better.

2) Sure would be interesting to know the exact list of schools involved in this swap and the mechanism by which it occurs. Any “elite” school left out of this circle must feel like the kid sitting by himself in the high school cafeteria. Not that EphBlog would know anything about that . . .

3) Was this phrasing — “the second school would withdraw the application” — vetted by a lawyer? It would be one thing if Williams were to reject a student it had already accepted if that student applied elsewhere. That student has broken a promise she made to Williams, so Williams can take action. But for Harvard to reject — whoops, I mean “withdraw the application [of]” — a student just because Williams had accepted her in December seems more problematic, anti-trust-wise . . .

4) What about early action candidates? That is a much trickier issue. Does Harvard let Williams know if it has admitted a student early action? And, if so, does that fact play into the Williams admissions process? Of course, Williams knows that almost every high quality regular decision applicant (other than its own deferrals) applied somewhere else early. And you can be certain that we can (and should!) take account of that fact in making decisions. (That is, if you really love Williams so much, as you now claim, why didn’t you apply early?) But I would be shocked if schools traded early action information explicitly . . . But I have been shocked before!

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Williams a Target in Early Admissions Probe, I

This Wall Street Journal article, “Williams, Wesleyan, Middlebury Among Targets of Federal Early-Admissions Probe,” and associated news reports (here, here and here) merit a few days of discussion. Day 1.

The targets of a new federal probe into possible antitrust violations related to early-decision college admissions include Wesleyan University, Middlebury College and Pomona College, as well as at least four other highly selective liberal-arts schools.

The Justice Department sent letters late last week notifying the schools of the investigation and asking them to preserve emails and other messages detailing arrangements they may have with other schools about swapping names of admitted students, and how they might use that information.

1) Did Williams play a role in helping reporter Melissa Korn? (Note that Williams appears in the title and is pictured in the accompanying photo.) I hope we did! The more that folks like Liz Creighton ’01 schmooze with major media, the easier it is to get our message/brand out.

2) Wasn’t this story originally broken at Inside Higher Ed? If so, does Korn have an obligation to mention this even if she got a copy of the letter independently? Inside Higher Ed provides this relevant background:

For years, some elite colleges — members of what was then called the Overlap Group — shared financial information on admitted applicants, seeking to agree upon common aid offers. But in 1991, Ivy League institutions agreed to stop sharing such information. The agreement followed a Justice Department investigation into the practice, which the universities said promoted fairness but that the department said was an antitrust violation.

Generally, college leaders have said the Overlap Group investigation discouraged them from sharing any information about applicants.

We have covered the Overlap scandal before. (There is a great senior thesis waiting to be written about that, either in history or economics.)

Back to the WSJ:

All the schools targeted offer prospective students the option to apply under binding early-decision agreements, which often have significantly higher acceptance rates than do regular-decision pools. If the applicant is offered admission, he or she must commit to attending and withdraw applications to other schools or risk having the admission offer rescinded.

Higher-education experts say it seems the Justice Department investigation is focusing on whether the schools are violating antitrust regulations by sharing the names of admitted students to enforce the rules of the programs.

Two options:

1) This is stupid and goes nowhere. Why can’t Williams tell the world who it has accepted early decision? Is there any law that would prevent it from just posting that list on the web, in the same way it records every graduate in the course catalog? Lawyer comments welcome! And, if it can post that list, why can’t it send an e-mail to Harvard admissions with the same information?

2) This is stupid and goes somewhere. Even if colleges stopped sharing these lists tomorrow, nothing would change. The number of students who try to game the system is trivial. But, since the colleges were so absurdly sleazy in their conduct during Overlap, I would not begrudge the Justice Department forcing them to stop all communications. Recall Adam Smith:

People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.

Entire article is below the break, for those without WSJ access.

Read more

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Dick Nesbitt ’74 Retiring?

How else to explain this job posting for a new Director of Admissions?

Our vote for his successor goes to Sulgi Lim ’06, always a fan of EphBlog!

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President Maud Mandel, 10

Brown Dean of the College Maud Mandel begins her term as the 18th president of Williams on July 1. EphBlog welcomes her! We are pro-Mandel and hope that her presidency is successful. (Full disclosure, our preference would have been for an internal candidate like Lee Park or Eiko Siniawer.) Let’s spend some time discussing what we know about Mandel so far. Day 10, our last day of this series.

What do we know (or guess) about Mandel’s politics? From The Daily Herald:

Dean of the College Maud Mandel donated $1,000 to Clinton. When asked why she chose to donate, Mandel said, “I gave that donation as a private citizen,” citing that as dean of the college, she did not feel it would be appropriate to comment on her donation.

Good stuff!

1) Hope she follows the same policy at Williams. A good Williams president has many things to say about Williams and some things to say about higher education. The less time she spends opining on politics, the better. Or do readers miss Adam Falk spouting off about immigration or the alt-right?

2) I don’t care that Mandel is a Clinton supporter. No (?) president of an elite college — or plausible applicant to be one — voted for Trump.

3) What are Mandel’s views on political diversity, or the lack-there-of, at Williams? My hope is that we will be leaving behind the Falk era of speaker-banning. There are some encouraging hints, albeit sotto voce, from the Administration, despite this nonsense from President Majumder in January. Mandel might send a useful signal on this dimension by joining Heterodox Academy, joining current Williams faculty members Michael Lewis, Robert Jackall and Eric Knibbs.

4) Can we connect Mandel’s scholarly work on Jews/Muslims in France to her likely views about running Williams? I don’t know. Studying closely the rise of modern antisemitism in France seems a naturally “conservative” topic — I bet that many (most?) French Jews wish there had been a lot less immigration to France in the last 50 years! — but Mandel seems to have been on the “liberal” side in the associated academic debates. Any historians among our readers?

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President Maud Mandel, 9

Brown Dean of the College Maud Mandel begins her term as the 18th president of Williams on July 1. EphBlog welcomes her! We are pro-Mandel and hope that her presidency is successful. (Full disclosure, our preference would have been for an internal candidate like Lee Park or Eiko Siniawer.) Let’s spend some time discussing what we know about Mandel so far. Day 9.

Her latest book is Muslims and Jews in France: History of a Conflict. From a review:

In view of the growing number of Muslim anti-Semitic occurrences in France culminating in anti-Jewish terrorist attacks, this historical analysis of Muslim-Jewish relations in France during the twentieth century is a most timely contribution. In her examination of this dynamic, Maud S. Mandel pays attention to the developing social, economic, cultural, and political status of Muslims and Jews in France, on the background of France’s changing foreign and domestic policies—especially as related to France’s colonial position in North Africa—and the impact of the creation of the State of Israel, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the Palestinian nation. She shows how these internal and external changes impact Muslim-Jewish relations in France. The analysis makes it clear how the different history of both groups in France, and especially the impact of French Colonial and post-Colonial policies, had a lasting effect on both communities and their relations with each other.

I have not read the book and am no historian, but color me suspicious about Mandel’s underlying thesis. From an interview:

What do you think is the book’s most important contribution?
As in all historical projects, my goal is to complicate simplistic understandings of the problem before us, to challenge notions of inevitability, to force us to question how and why the past took the shape that it did, and to push against monocausal explanations. This approach has pointed me to the diversity of socio-religious relationships between Muslims and Jews in France; conflict is not the only–or even the primary–way of understanding these relationships. This approach has also directed me away from conceptualizing Muslim-Jewish relations in France as arising inevitably from conflict in the Middle East. Rather, I argue that where conflict does exist, its origins and explanation are as much about France and French history as they are about Middle Eastern conflict.

Mandel suggests that French colonialism and other policies plays an important role in causing Muslim antisemitism in France today. That seems suspect to me. (And perhaps this highlights the difference between how historians (N = 1) and statisticians (N > 1) see the world.) If Mandel is right, then another European country, without France’s history of colonialism and Middle East meddling, would see very different relations between Jews and Muslims. That is a testable claim! If Mandel is right, then there should be much less Muslim antisemitism in a country like Sweden, which never had colonies and plays no role in the Middle East. And, yet, this is not true. Muslim antisemitism is as much (more?) of a problem in Sweden than it is in France.

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President Maud Mandel, 8

Brown Dean of the College Maud Mandel begins her term as the 18th president of Williams on July 1. EphBlog welcomes her! We are pro-Mandel and hope that her presidency is successful. (Full disclosure, our preference would have been for an internal candidate like Lee Park or Eiko Siniawer.) Let’s spend some time discussing what we know about Mandel so far. Day 8.

One more comment from the 2014 The Brown Daily Herald article:

Mandel is concerned about the decreasing number of undergraduates concentrating in the humanities, a trend she has personally witnessed at Brown, she told The Herald. As dean of the College, Mandel will be poised to make clear to students and parents that the humanities teach valuable skills, she said, adding that tackling the problem also “has to do with admissions and the type of students we want to bring to Brown.”

I can find no evidence that Mandel worked on this topic at Brown, or that any work she did was successful. Any readers with inside information? Comments:

1) I dislike these conversations, not least because people (not Mandel!) are often sloppy in the terms they use, worrying about the decline in the “liberal arts” (when, in fact, everything taught at Williams is part of the liberal arts, by definition, since we are a “liberal arts college”) when what they really care about are lower enrollments in “humanities,” as in this quote. It is certainly true that many professors at Williams worry about increases in Div III enrollments/majors at the expense of Div I.

2) In 50 years, these sorts of worries will seem as absurd and parochial as the worries 50 years ago about declining enrollment in Latin and Greek. That was a big deal, back in the day. But the decline didn’t stop and couldn’t (really) have been stopped. The same is true of the move away from, say, English and toward Stats/CS.

3) Somewhat contrary to 2), there has not been much (any?) decline in humanities majors at Williams:

Screen Shot 2018-04-05 at 11.08.04 AM

Division I majors have gone down some but not much. Instead, Div III majors have sky-rocketed. Big picture: There are as many History majors as before, but more of those History majors are adding a double major in computer science. Is that bad?

4) Of course, a dramatic increase in majors almost certainly means a dramatic increase in course enrollments. I haven’t found any data, but it would hardly be surprising of the total percentage of humanities course enrollments at Williams has gone from 30% to 20%. If so, big deal! Students should take classes in what they want.

5) Don’t the faculty deserve lots of the blame for the decline in student interest in the humanities? Let’s focus on Mandel’s own field, history, and look at the courses on offer this spring at Williams. Much of this is good stuff. Who could complain about surveys of Modern China, Medieval England or Europe in Twentieth Century? Not me! I also have no problems with courses on more narrow topics. Indeed, classes on Witchcraft, Panics and The Suburbs are all almost certainly excellent, and not just because they are taught by some of the best professors in the department. But notice what is missing: No more courses on war (now that Jim Wood has retired). No courses on diplomatic history (RIP Russ Bostert). No courses in the sort of mainstream US history topics — Revolutionary Period, Civil War — which would interest scores of students.

6) Your likely success when applying to elite schools like Williams is mostly baked in, a function of your high school grades and test scores. But, on the margin, I bet that expressing a strong interest in the humanities might be helpful for male applicants. (Williams so wants to get to gender parity in STEM fields that female applicants should shade their application in that direction, if possible.) If Mandel wants to increase enrollment in the humanities, she may very well tell admissions to admit more students with a demonstrated interest in the humanities.

PS. Thanks to Jim Reische for forwarding this more extensive history of Williams majors (pdf). Worth a detailed review?

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President Maud Mandel, 7

Brown Dean of the College Maud Mandel begins her term as the 18th president of Williams on July 1. EphBlog welcomes her! We are pro-Mandel and hope that her presidency is successful. (Full disclosure, our preference would have been for an internal candidate like Lee Park or Eiko Siniawer.) Let’s spend some time discussing what we know about Mandel so far. Day 7.

The 2014 article from The Brown Daily Herald reported that:

Mandel said, she is particularly interested in the international impact students can make.

Williams should increase the quota on international students. Consider the distribution of students at Brown in 2016-2017 (pdf):

Screen Shot 2018-04-01 at 6.10.10 PM

1) Looking at first year students, Brown is at 11% international. Woo-Hoo! If Mandel moves Williams to 11% (from our current 7%, pdf), she will instantly be a better president than Falk.

2) I like the way Brown makes extensive use of “Two or more races, non-Hispanic” and “Race and/or ethnicity unknown.” More than 11% of the student body falls into these categories. I always felt that Williams tried “too hard” to force every student into a specific racial box. (For many years, Williams had exactly zero students in the unknown box. Latest data shows us with 5% in that box and 5% in the “Two or more” box, which matches pretty closely with Brown. So, I guess my hope is that Williams goes even further in this direction, perhaps by subtly signally to Asian/white applicants that checking these other boxes is helpful.)

3) Brown is 6.5% African-American. Nice discipline! (Williams is at 9.5%.) Does Brown — does Dean Mandel — hate black kids? No! But they probably do a much better job of not admitting as many poorly qualified (SAT < 1300, AR < 4) applicants as Williams does. (The sad truth of elite college admissions is that HYPS hoover up all the African-American applicant with elite credentials (about 2%) and then all the applicants who would be good fits at schools like Brown and Williams. This leaves Williams/Brown with a tough choice. They can either be disciplined in admissions --- using affirmative action but not too much --- or they can do that and also accept many applicants who are almost certain to struggle academically. I hope that Williams moves in the Brown direction on this dimension.

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President Maud Mandel, 6

Brown Dean of the College Maud Mandel begins her term as the 18th president of Williams on July 1. EphBlog welcomes her! We are pro-Mandel and hope that her presidency is successful. (Full disclosure, our preference would have been for an internal candidate like Lee Park or Eiko Siniawer.) Let’s spend some time discussing what we know about Mandel so far. Day 6.

Mandel became Dean at Brown in July 2014. We know how her achievements in that role over the subsequent four years are described today, but how did she think about her goals at the start?

Mandel named her long-term experience at and consequent personal connection to Brown as one of three factors that drove her interest in the dean of the College position since it first became available. The vision of the current administration and the proliferation of massive open online courses, which has challenged traditional ideas about what universities can offer students, also drew her in, Mandel said.

This wording confuses me. Was Brown/Mandel pro-mooc or anti-mooc? Brown started participating in Coursera in 2013 and now has a handful of classes up at EdX. But it seems less committed to on-line learning than most big schools. I assume that Williams will continue down its current path of no-Moocs and that Mandel agrees with that strategy.

Mandel witnessed changes to the advising program under Bergeron and said she hopes to expand on those reforms. … Advising, which [Brown President] Paxson called Mandel’s “personal priority” in her email, must address all the opportunities available to Brown students, Mandel said — a goal she describes as “advising the whole student.”

“We want students who come to Brown to feel like they got an experience here that’s unique and important that would not be available to them at other places,” Mandel said, with advising a vehicle to achieve that goal.

Good stuff. Williams could do a much better job with advising. Start with an on-line resource, like the old Willipedia, which features the answers to the 100 most commonly asked question.

Mandel will also confront the issue of grade inflation, which was discussed during the selection process, she told The Herald. “President Paxson has made clear that one of the initiatives of the dean of the College will be to address grade inflation.”

Did Mandel do anything about grade inflation at Brown? Not that I can see. I hope she tackles the issue at Williams. Start with greater transparency and a student/faculty committee.

Mandel will have a leading role in implementing the components of the University’s strategic plan that focus on strengthening undergraduate education, according to the press release.

Big picture, it is tough for an outsider to provide a meaningful score card which compares Mandel’s plans in 2014 to her accomplishments in 2018. Moreover, a good Dean takes her lead from the President. Perhaps Paxson wanted her to focus on items like “diversity and inclusion” instead of grade inflation.

Any Brown-insiders among our readership?

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April Faculty Meeting Materials: No More Sex with Students!

From: Faculty Steering Committee
Date: Wed, Apr 4, 2018 at 1:26 PM
Subject: April 11 Faculty Meeting Agenda
To: WILLIAMS-FACULTY@listserv.williams.edu

Dear Colleagues:

We look forward to seeing you at the next faculty meeting on April 11 at 4:00 p.m. in Griffin 3. The agenda and related materials are attached to this email.

Best,

Tiku Majumder, Interim President of the College
The Faculty Steering Committee
Safa Zaki (Chair), Division II
Colin Adams, Division III
Matt Carter, Division III
Annelle Curulla, Division I
Edan Dekel, Division I
Gregory Mitchell, Division II

Materials here.

Biggest change (I think) is from the current faculty handbook which says: “All faculty are in a position of power with regard to students; hence, sexual relationships between faculty and students are almost always inappropriate.” Proposal is to replace this with:

All faculty are in a position of power with regard to undergraduate students; hence, sexual relationships between faculty and undergraduate students are prohibited. Sexual relationships between faculty and undergraduate students put claims of consent in question. It is difficult for a student to be certain of the motives of a member of the faculty. A person in a position of authority cannot be certain that the student’s consent is genuine, rather than motivated by an unspoken fear of the consequences of not consenting. In addition, a sexual relationship with a student may raise questions of unfair academic advantage or of unwarranted negative evaluation. These questions may adversely affect the educational environment of other students, as well as the student directly involved. Should any of these questions arise, sexual discrimination is at issue.

I expect the change to pass and would vote Yes. I hope that the Record follows up on this:

The Dean of the Faculty may grant exemptions to this policy in reasonable cases of pre-existing relationships. Any faculty member who wishes to request such an exemption should submit a written statement to the Dean of the Faculty explaining the reasons for the request. The Dean of the Faculty shall provide a response in writing to the faculty member and the Assistant Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity/Title IX coordinator.

Does Professor Jim Shephard’s relationship with his wife (and former student) Karen Shepard ’87 require retro-active permission from the Dean of the Faculty? Just curious!

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President Maud Mandel, 5

Brown Dean of the College Maud Mandel begins her term as the 18th president of Williams on July 1. EphBlog welcomes her! We are pro-Mandel and hope that her presidency is successful. (Full disclosure, our preference would have been for an internal candidate like Lee Park or Eiko Siniawer.) Let’s spend some time discussing what we know about Mandel so far. Day 5.

EphBlog loves stories about mothers and their daughters. From The New York Times in 2009:

Like the Obamas’ new domestic arrangement, whereby Marian Robinson, Michelle Obama’s 71-year-old mother, will become a third head of household and the primary caregiver for two children born to two high-achieving parents, the linchpin of the Baker-Roby household is a grandmother. Theirs is an old-fashioned scenario that fell out of style as Americans drifted to the hermetically sealed nuclear family. Since the early part of the last century, academics have noted the waning of this arrangement in the United States, because of increased mobility, smaller families and even Freudian attitudes, rampant at midcentury, that described “too close” adult maternal ties as unhealthy.

It is a choice, however, that is cycling back into favor. . . .

And it looks as if one particular family relationship — that of adult daughters with their mothers — may be entering a period of more than just détente, as veterans of the women’s movement endeavor to help their own daughters achieve the work-life balance that may have eluded them.

Ruth Mandel is the director of the Eagleton Institute for Politics at Rutgers University, and former head of the Center for American Women and Politics there. One of her assignments in her course on women’s memoirs was to ask students to write autobiographies. “I was struck by how many would say their mothers were their best friends,” Dr. Mandel said. “I don’t know that they would have said that in my generation.”

Dr. Mandel’s mother, an Austrian Jewish refugee, worked reluctantly, Dr. Mandel said. “She wasn’t raised for it and her great dream in life was to stay home.” Conversely, Dr. Mandel’s daughter, Maud, is more like her: a professor.

Twice in the recent past, when Maud’s research required temporary residence in Paris, mother and daughter lived together, with Dr. Mandel maintaining daily e-mail and Skype contact with her office while caring for Maud Mandel’s two young children (Maud is a professor of history and Judaic studies at Brown and her husband, Steve Simon, runs an online business that allowed only intermittent time in Paris).

O.K., so a stint in Paris is not exactly a hardship, but it revealed to mother and daughter that theirs was a strong partnership. “It was wonderful to have time together again,” Maud said, “and also because my mother’s life was so complicated as she juggled her intense commitment to her work with her new role as primary caregiver to her grandchildren, I was both grateful and deeply touched.”

Good stuff. A healthy relationship with one’s family is a good sign in a Williams president.

As Dr. Mandel pointed out, “Working daughters need their mothers.”

So say we all. Recall EphBlog’s key advice to young men: Marry a woman smart enough to have a professional career and live in the same city as your mother-in-law.

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President Maud Mandel, 4

Brown Dean of the College Maud Mandel begins her term as the 18th president of Williams on July 1. EphBlog welcomes her! We are pro-Mandel and hope that her presidency is successful. (Full disclosure, our preference would have been for an internal candidate like Lee Park or Eiko Siniawer.) Let’s spend some time discussing what we know about Mandel so far. Day 4.

What might President Mandel bring to Williams from Brown? My favorite candidate is their open curriculum.

In 1850, Brown’s fourth president, Francis Wayland, argued that students should have greater freedom in pursuing a higher education, so that each would be able to “study what he chose, all that he chose, and nothing but what he chose.” A century later, this vision became the basis for a new approach to general education at Brown: the open curriculum.

Williams should copy Brown. There should only be two academic requirements: 32 courses and a major. Forcing students to take courses they don’t want to take accomplishes nothing.

How might Mandel accomplish this?

First, appoint a committee, led by (and made up of) people who share this view. Williams makes major changes via committees and this would be no exception.

Second, guide the committee toward making two recommendations: a) All extra academic requirements — three classes in each division, DPE, writing and quantitive courses — should sunset after five years. The faculty could re-instate them (or different requirements) in 2023, but doing so would require new votes. b) Randomly select 25% of the class of 2022 to be exempt from the extra requirements. These students would, obviously, be able to take whatever classes they want, including having the option of meeting the standard requirements. But they would also have the option not to.

The great benefit of such an experiment is that it would demonstrate clearly the effect, if any, of the requirements. Does the writing requirement make students better writers? Does the DPE requirement make them more aware of the importance of diversity? If these requirements have any effect, then they might be worth keeping. But I doubt that they do. More importantly, it is an empirical question that the College should investigate.

In 5 years, the College would be well-placed to revisit these requirements and decide which ones, if any, should be kept. Of course, even better would be to just get rid of them quickly, but I doubt that will happen. There are too many faculty members who think, incorrectly, that they are doing students a favor by restricting their course options. If Mandel wants to move more toward an open curriculum like Brown’s — and I hope she does — she has much work to do.

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President Maud Mandel, 3

Brown Dean of the College Maud Mandel begins her term as the 18th president of Williams on July 1. EphBlog welcomes her! We are pro-Mandel and hope that her presidency is successful. (Full disclosure, our preference would have been for an internal candidate like Lee Park or Eiko Siniawer.) Let’s spend some time discussing what we know about Mandel so far. Day 3.

From the College’s news release:

As dean at Brown, Mandel has been deeply involved in efforts to advance diversity and inclusion, including promoting programs to foster retention for historically underrepresented students in the STEM fields. She also led a collaborative process with students and staff to open the First-Generation College and Low-Income Student Center (FLi Center), the first center at any Ivy League school to be dedicated to first-generation students.

A strong proponent of the liberal arts, Mandel established the Brown Learning Collaborative, aimed at strengthening student learning in the core competencies of a liberal arts education, including writing, reading, research, data analysis, problem-solving and public speaking.

Most of the news release is the sort of fluff that we would expect in such an announcement. Mandel is wonderful! Williams is wonderful! We will all be even more wonderful together! The above paragraphs are the only substance. Possibilities:

1) Jim Reische is filling space with whatever material he has at hand. Those activities were part of Mandel’s CV, or at least the package that search firm Spencer Stuart prepared for her as they shopped her around the presidential market. But they aren’t, really, important to her or to the Williams search committee that selected her. They tell us little/nothing about what to expect over the next few years.

2) These achievements were among the primary reasons that the search committee selected Mandel. They felt that Williams was not doing nearly enough about problems associated with URM under-representation in STEM (and/or the other items) and wanted a president who would make tackling them her highest priority.

3) These projects were truly important to Mandel. She wanted the job as dean precisely because she saw certain problems at Brown. She identified and fought for these improvements. Since every school, including Williams, can do better along these dimensions, these will be her highest priorities as Williams president.

My guess is that 2) is not true. Virtually every dean/provost at every elite college/university can point to similar projects/achievements. Mandel’s tenure as Dean is completely typical in that regard. So, it is unlikely that these played a meaningful role in her selection. (I would feel otherwise if she had done something unusual and/or if the search committee signaled us more clearly. For example, if Mandel had come from Harvey Mudd it might have been because the search committee wanted Williams to create an engineering major.)

I don’t have a sense of how much Mandel truly cared about these projects at Brown — I am sure she was in favor, but were they the source of her passion for the job? — or how much of these she will bring to Williams.

What do readers think?

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President Maud Mandel, 2

Brown Dean of the College Maud Mandel begins her term as the 18th president of Williams on July 1. EphBlog welcomes her! We are pro-Mandel and hope that her presidency is successful. (Full disclosure, our preference would have been for an internal candidate like Lee Park or Eiko Siniawer.) Let’s spend some time discussing what we know about Mandel so far. Day 2.

There is no doubt that Mandel is highly qualified (CV) to be the president of Williams. Traditionally, elite colleges require two characteristics in presidential candidates: academic success (i.e., being a tenured professor) and administrator experience. The vast majority of NESCAC presidents have had such a background, including at least the last 5 Williams presidents. (Jack Sawyer ’39, with no administrative experience, is an interesting exception to this rule.) Occasionally, an elite liberal arts college will appoint someone who is not a tenured academic, like Barry Mills at Bowdoin, but such cases seem increasingly rare.

Mandel is a tenured professor and has spent the last 4 years as Dean of the College at Brown. Check and check!

Speaking very roughly, Maud probably does better on the academic dimension than she does on the administrative. Tenure at Brown is impressive! The last few Williams presidents have had less imposing academic pedigrees than that. But Dean of the College is generally viewed as less useful preparation for the presidency than Dean of the Faculty or Provost. So, net-net, Maud has about the typical background for a NESCAC president.

Side note: There is no better example of former President Morty Schapio’s menschness than his decision to transform Carl Vogt’s ’58 interim one-year presidency into an official Williams presidency. This is why Maud is officially the 18th president rather than the 17th. Vogt’s presidency should not really be counted, just as other interim presidents (Hewitt, Wagner and Majumder) are not counted. Vogt had no academic background, but I don’t count him as part of my “last 5 Williams presidents” claim above since he was not selected as a permanent president.

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President Maud Mandel, 1

Brown Dean of the College Maud Mandel begins her term as the 18th president of Williams on July 1. EphBlog welcomes her! We are pro-Mandel and hope that her presidency is successful. (Full disclosure, our preference would have been for an internal candidate like Lee Park or Eiko Siniawer.) Let’s spend some time discussing what we know about Mandel so far. Day 1.

Start with the acknowledgments from her 2014 book Muslims and Jews in France: History of a Conflict:

Screen Shot 2018-03-16 at 8.38.24 AM

Beautiful stuff. How could we not like Mandel after reading such obviously heart-felt prose?

The modernists among our readers will insist that we have it all backwards, that we should start with Mandel’s CV, the dry listing of her professional accomplishments. I disagree. Although a stable marriage and loving family are not a requirement to be the president of Williams, they are a very good sign of character, judgment and stability. After our experience with President Working-on-Wife-Number-3, it is nice to know that Mandel will not be concerned with the dating scene in Williamstown.

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Williams Professors to Discuss Racial Differences in IQ

Harvard genetics professor David Reiche‘s op-ed and interview in the New York Times is making waves.

Williams professor Phoebe Cohen tweets:

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EphBlog is here to help! The key issue with Reich is that he believes that there are important genetic differences between human population groups.

It is likely that a few stereotypes will be validated by findings from genetics — even if it is also certain that a great majority will be disproved. … So how should we handle the eventuality that for a few traits, average differences among populations arising from genetics will be discovered? I do not think that the right approach is to pretend that scientific research has shown there can be no meaningful average genetic differences among human populations, because that message is contradicted by scientific facts. … Given that all genetically determined traits differ somewhat among populations, we should expect that there will be differences in the average effects, including in traits like behavior.

I suspect that this is not a point of view that Cohen has come across that often among her Ph.D. peer group. But she should get out more! Indeed, there are professors now at Williams who have published along these lines. Start with economics professor Quamrul Ashraf. Consider his paper, “The “Out of Africa” Hypothesis, Human Genetic Diversity, and Comparative Economic Development”:

This research advances and empirically establishes the hypothesis that, in the course of the prehistoric exodus of Homo sapiens out of Africa, variation in migratory distance to various settlements across the globe affected genetic diversity and has had a persistent hump-shaped effect on comparative economic development, reflecting the trade-off between the beneficial and the detrimental effects of diversity on productivity.

Key message is that one of the reasons Peru is poor and Japan is rich is that the genetics of Peruvians differs from the genetics of Japanese in ways that influence economic growth. This is not a popular opinion in the academy and I am occasionally surprised by the lack of controversy at Williams about Ashraf’s extensive (and impressive!) research effort along these lines.

Psychology professor Nate Kornell is almost certainly a alt-right fellow traveler when it comes to the topic of the reality of IQ and its genetic component. His puckish side comes out when he likes tweets like this which highlight the almost religious nature of the opposition to Reich.

Modest Proposal: Professors Cohen, Ashraf and Kornell should organize a panel at Williams to discuss Reich’s views about the genetics of racial differences. (EphBlog has covered this topic before.) Williams is an college, not a madrassa, so an open-minded professor like Cohen has nothing to fear from a discussion about the views of a scholar from Harvard . . . right?

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Go Michigan!

imageFrom Sports Illustrated:

There was this thing that Duncan Robinson would do, four years ago, when he was a 19-year-old freshman basketball player at Williams College, a tiny, elite Division III liberal arts school, with a student population of just over 2,000, in the Berkshire Mountains of rural, northwestern Massachusetts. Williams freshmen, like D-III freshmen everywhere, are asked to help with menial support duties, and before away games, Robinson took it upon himself to carry trainer Lisa Wilk’s heavy bag of supplies from the bus to the locker room, along with his own bag. After games, he would carry it back to the bus. It was a heavy bag, about 50 pounds of tape and wrap and other supplies. Sometimes Robinson would fight off fellow freshman Dan Aronowitz to carry the bag. This muling was a small act, but something that everyone at Williams seems to recall as quintessential Robinson. When he decided to leave Williams after his one season, some of his friends made a funny, “Please Stay, Duncan” video in which they put little water droplets on Wilk’s face to make it appear as if she was weeping.

This weekend Robinson, a 6’8″ senior forward, will play for Michigan in the Final Four, first against Loyola-Chicago on Saturday evening and then, potentially, in the national championship game on Monday night. The Final Four, past and present, is a cascade of remarkable stories. Michigan’s next opponent, for one, is this year’s Cinderella. Robinson’s personal tale is well-known enough that announcers can dispense with it in four words: The Division III transfer.

But it’s more than that. Robinson is a unicorn: A player who transferred from D-III, not just to D-I, but to the highest level of D-I, a contending program in a power five conference, and with a full scholarship in hand from the beginning. He then became a starter in his first year of eligibility and has scored more than 1,000 points. When he steps on the court Saturday, he will become a subset of one—the first player to participate in both the Division I and Division III basketball Final Fours. (And he won’t just participate; he will be the first Michigan player off the bench, averaging more than 25 minutes and almost nine points a game in the tournament.)

Read the whole thing.

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